Oakwood and Drake Hall inmates working in prison call centres

HMP Oakwood The Ministry of Justice said inmates could not see sensitive information

Related Stories

Convicted criminals in the West Midlands are being paid to work in call centres inside their prisons.

Inmates at HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton, and Drake Hall, in Staffordshire, carry out market research for insurance companies.

The Centre for Crime Prevention said the project was "incredibly naive".

But the Ministry of Justice said it was a pilot scheme which may be rolled out further if it is successful, and added the prisoners have risk assessments.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: "We do not want prisoners sitting idle in their cells when they should be working towards their rehabilitation.

Sensitive information

"We prepare offenders for work inside prison so they can get a job after release - this reduces the chances that they will reoffend in the future, meaning lower crime and fewer victims.

"All prisoners working in call centres are risk-assessed and stringent security measures are in place, with calls supervised and recorded."

She said the small pilots are being monitored and would only be increased to other prisons if they were deemed successful.

She added the workers cannot see sensitive information about the people they are calling, such as addresses.

The phone numbers of customers are also protected as all calls are routed through a computer.

"At no point can they ask the value of items, record data outside of the secure systems or deviate from a carefully-worded script," she added.

The spokeswoman could not say whether any other prisons have similar schemes, nor which companies run the ones mentioned above.

She confirmed the work is taking place within the confines of the prisons.

On their websites, both facilities say work opportunities are available for inmates.

'Risk assessed'

Alex Hewson from the Prison Reform Trust said they supported the scheme.

"We encourage this type of scheme because it develops skills that may prove to be useful for the workplace generally, and gives prisoners a greater chance of getting employment on release," he said.

"I can understand why there may be concerns but the scheme is risk-assessed and I think it's really important those people get opportunities to help them resettle."

A statement from G4S, which runs HMP Oakwood prison, said: "The call centre at HMP Oakwood is one of many partnerships we run with businesses, and enables prisoners to work towards apprenticeships and industry-recognised qualifications.

"All the prisoners are carefully security checked and interviewed before working in the centre, calls are made remotely by computer, and every conversation is closely monitored by supervisors. No information from the calls is stored and there is no way any personal information can be used for any criminal purposes."

Oakwood is a male prison and Drake Hall is for female offenders.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Oh lord!!!!! Give them horrible jobs like cleaning the 'bus sized lard deposit' out of sewers, fishing rubbish out of rivers, cleaning up green spaces etc....but do it as piece work, if they collect / do nothing they don't get fed

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.


    On release they have to do UNPAID community service in bright pink boiler suits until they have repaid the costs to the tax payer at the rate of min wage set year of sentence, if £100,000, that 16155 unpaid hours, there record would then stated repaid society/cleared once completed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    478. JPublic
    Why are they not working for free for charities or cleaning our streets, sorting rubbish at landfill sites?
    Cleaning streets/sorting rubbish is done by paid council employees so they'd be taking their jobs, plus escape opportunities are vast.

    Working for charities would immediately have HYS screaming 'PAEDOS AT KIDDIES CHARITIES!!!!'

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    Am I expected to give my credit card details over the phone to someone who was jailed for credit card fraud?

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    "I don't want to have anything to do with criminals and the idea of one of them calling my house is abhorrent."

    Your views to me, and the concept of moving society forward is abhorrent. While I never would support light sentences for any crime I do not see the logic in keeping prisoners in cells until release day. Giving cons the opportunity to work after sentencing is the only way forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    So there is now a financial incentive to lock people up?

    Yeah, that will end well, can't see any problems there....

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    no NI to pay, under-cut min wage, No PAYE,
    Do you know that for a fact? If so ,can you please share with us exactly what the prisoners are being paid, since the BBC seem unwilling/unable to find out/tell us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Some of the financial benefit received should go to a victims/community fund. Slightly off subject but has the telephone preference service been respected ? If not I would seriously fine the insurance company

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    I think considering how much prisons cost this is a very positive step as long as it's managed properly and that the companies using this service are charged market rates. The income then generated can go towards the cost of the prison reducing the burden to the tax payer.

    Also given the nature of the work it may help prisoners learn to deal with difficult individuals in a safe manner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    'Market research' for the insurance industry?
    So if they miss-sell me something, or ring me up at an inconvenient time, do they lose parole?
    Suppose I don't want criminals knowing what kind of car I have, where I live or how much I have in valuables in my house?
    State subsidising big business at tax payers expense should be criminal.
    Another policy expediently not thought through.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Short-termism. Sending vast numbers of jobs abroad and brining in millions of immigrants, and now giving jobs to prisoners means pay is low and there are nowhere near enough jobs to go around. Who are companies going to sell products/ services to when eventually nobody can afford them? Either companies will go bust or prices go up those that can afford pay more. There will be/is a huge underclass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    471 shiela coleman
    I have relative who child is just starting school who would like to go back into employment to make up the fall in her husbands earns,with workfare,zero hours,prisoners & volunteers there is NO work out their that pays.she could do voluntary work but it will not i) Put more food on the table ii) stimulate the economy in buying those extra luxuries which would create JOBS

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    Convicted criminals in the West Midlands are being paid to work in call centres"

    Paid to work in call centres while the taxpayer pays for them to be in prison.

    Why are they not working for free for charities or cleaning our streets, sorting rubbish at landfill sites? ie: Putting something back into society rather than lining the pockets of profit-maximising Corporates


  • Comment number 477.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Some people can't be pleased. There are far too many comments about this being a ridiculous idea. Is it really a ridiculous to have people who are in prison work towards being re-integrated into society? No it isn't it ridiculous it is a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Will this fit right in alongside "retail" (read shop floor worker) apprenticeships? Government without a clue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Prisoners should be allowed the chance to be rehabilitated, and their crimes should not hang round tehir necks forever. That said, I am worried at the choice of the rehabilitative work here, and wonder why the state is subsidizing (yet again) companies by allowing them to not employ people on real wages. Its all about money, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    @432. There may be people on here who complain about the jobs as you say and your response is slightly misguided. A prisoner working in a call centre does not pay bills! council tax, food, heating,etc. So you can understand the annoyance, there are people out here in the uk who are law abiding and cannot afford 3 meals a day !! in the uk (2007) it cost £40,000 a year to look after a prisoner !

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    ALL ABOUT THE MONEY- No building expense, no NI to pay, under-cut min wage, No PAYE, medical, training, 24 hour supervision - Paid by UK tax payer. Previously, jobs in call centres outsourced to Far East at expense of British workers to increase profits. Looks like they will return to UK for an even bigger profit. GREED - And those making the decisions get a big bonus for pleasing shareholders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    A better idea is to get those on benefits doing these jobs. I have never seen a problem in getting them doing this, although it seems the ones objecting to earning their unemployment money are those who enjoy "money for nothing" so they can holiday, watch TV. They would gain the experience of WORK. Prisoners in call centres it's eerie.


Page 16 of 40


More England stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.